‘Hamburger 2’ funds will be used to help build center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 1999

The city now has one source of funding for construction of its new convention center in the bag.

The 1.5 percent sales tax on restaurants, first designated for the National Park Service, will now go into a fund for construction of the downtown center, thanks to legislation signed by Gov. Kirk Fordice Wednesday.

&uot;It’s been a glorious week,&uot; said Natchez Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown, referring to both the bill signed Wednesday and a bill signed Tuesday giving the city $3.2 million for bluff work. &uot;These things happen because of a lot of work by other people.&uot;

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The National Park Service no longer needs the funding provided by the &uot;Hamburger 2&uot; funds.

&uot;We’ve completed all the infrastructure for the National Park Service,&uot; Brown said. &uot;Those commitments have been met.&uot;

In December, the city bought the land for the center, which will span two city blocks between Main and Franklin streets and Wall and Broadway streets.

The Hamburger 2 money, which is expected to generate between $300,000 and $350,000 a year, will probably not be enough to service the debt on the the convention center, Brown said.

&uot;This is a source of funds, not the source of funds,&uot; he said. &uot;This is a major leap toward funding.&uot;

The city is considering other sources of funding, including grants, private funding and reallocation of millage in the city’s pension fund.

Brown has also been talking with developers interested in putting a hotel at the site, which would be another source of funding. He said if a hotel is built, it would likely be on the lot between Broadway and Canal streets.

&uot;The sooner the better&uot; is when Brown would like to see a deal between the city and a hotel developer. &uot;We need to move forward quickly,&uot; he said.

The city has estimated it will spend at least $10 million on the new convention center, with $1 million of that going toward improvements at the city auditorium.

A fact-finding group of community and business leaders is working on early details of the convention center. Brown said he expects them to meet about twice a month for the next few months as planning gets off the ground. &uot;This citizen input group will be very functional for the next five or six months,&uot; Brown said.

Brown credited local legislators, including Reps. Andrew Ketchings, David Green and Phillip West, and Sens. Bob Dearing and Robert Johnson, for their help in getting the legislation passed.

And he also thanked city attorney Walter Brown, who authored the bill that was sent to the Legislature.

&uot;None of these things we do would come to pass without his doing an outstanding job,&uot; the mayor said.